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Archive for January 2011

Newsie McNewsfest

So I finally got round to updating my sadly neglected news page. I hadn’t updated it since July. Oh the shame of it, Internets, the shame.

So, in an effort to be a little bit more on top of things, here’s the news for January.

PS. You have to imagine me reading this aloud to you in a newscastery sort of voice.


First international exhibition

One of my pin sculptures, Quiver, will be at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor during January.

Quiver at PYF 01
Kirsty Hall: Quiver, Jan 2009

This is my first international exhibition, so I was thrilled to be accepted. And Quiver made it over there without being blown up in customs as a suspect package, for which I’m very grateful.

Disruptive Stillness is on at the Jean Paul Slusser Gallery at The University of Michigan between 7th – 28th January and there will be a closing reception on January 28th from 6 – 9 pm. Gallery opening times, address and further details are here.

If you’re in the area, do pop along to stroke the pins.

I’m doing a talk

I’m pleased to announce that I will be one of the speakers at the Textile Forum South West conference Mapping The Future – Where are you now? on 26th March 2011 in Taunton. More information here.

If you’re in the UK and you have an interest in textiles and/or mapping, I would encourage you to come along. The folks at Textile Forum South West are some of my favourite art peeps to hang out with and I think this conference will be great fun.

My talk will be about mapping and the internet, so I’ll probably be discussing things like my 365 Jars project.

Speaking of which…

365 Jars is off to a resounding start with people all over the world avidly reading the daily jar updates.

To date, seven of the sixteen jars have been found but one of those was re-released into the wild by its enthusiastic finder. So if you’re in Bristol, there should still be ten jars out there for you to find and take home – keep your eyes open!

There will also be arse kicking

Oh yes, indeed there will.

Artist Arse Kicking is an online monthly art club for grown-ups that I’ll be launching some time in the spring.

Check out the FAQ for more details of what’s involved and if it sounds exciting, please sign up for the AAK mailing list. Signing up doesn’t commit you to joining, it just means that I’ll let you know when things of an arse kicking nature are occurring.

Free Photographs

My Creative Commons sets are growing like topsy and now have their own page in the free resources section. If you’re not sure what Creative Commons is, I wrote about it last week.

The House Numbers set in particular, is evolving into something very special and I’m proud of it. My jar walks are providing lots of fruitful opportunities to photograph house numbers, so it’s growing weekly. I’ve also added a Graveyard set, a Signs set, an Urban set, a Natural World set and a general set with all the random stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Charity Donation

Finally, in response to the dreadful flooding in Australia and South America: if you buy anything from me during January, I will donate 20% to charity.

10% will go to the Queensland relief fund and a further 10% to the Save The Children Brazil fund. This is not a promotional thing; I’ve already made a personal donation, I would just like to give more if I can.

So if you were thinking of buying some art or one of my services, now is a excellent time to do so since you’ll also be helping a very good cause.


Understanding Creative Commons

For the last few years, I’ve been taking photographs of house numbers and I’ve just released these photos under a Creative Commons license. So if you have a need for some images of beautiful numbers, please check them out.

No 7 - 3-D
Kirsty Hall, No. 7, Jan 2011

Giesela Birgit over on my Facebook group asked me how Creative Commons works. I realised that other people might be confused about it, so here’s a quick explanation.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a way of licensing your creative work in a more adaptable way than traditional copyright. It replaces ‘all rights reserved’ with a more flexible ‘some rights reserved’ model that recognises that the basis of a free, open internet is sharing.

Creative Commons offers six different licenses, which allow you to control the way your work is used. All Creative Commons licenses require that you, the creator, are credited so people can’t take your work and pass it off as their own.

If I use it on one thing, will all my work be Creative Commons?

No 20 - flowery close-up
Kirsty Hall, No. 20, Jan 2011

No, licenses are specific to that particular work, not your entire body of work.

I don’t use Creative Commons for all my work. I retain full traditional copyright on all images of my art, any photographs I might want to sell in the future and all my writing. If you scroll down this blog you’ll notice that I have a copyright notice that explains how people can use my work and when they need to ask for permission. As far as I’m aware, most people respect it. I also further protect my work by only releasing my images at 72dpi, which is not high enough for good print quality.

Is Creative Commons legal?

Yes. All Creative Commons licenses are an extension of traditional copyright and they have a ‘Legal Code layer’ written in lawyer language. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be challenged in court and there have been a couple of court cases about Creative Commons but there are even more court cases based on traditional copyright.

Won’t people steal my stuff?

They might but that’s a risk you take whenever you release any kind of creative work in public. Personally I only release stuff under Creative Commons that I’m not particularly bothered about and I don’t worry about what happens to it.

If it bothers you, traditional copyright might be a better choice but be aware that dishonest people aren’t bothered about any kind of copyright and all you’re doing is stopping the honest people from disseminating and sharing your work.

Can I take public domain work and make it Creative Commons?

No, definitely not. You should only license works that you have created. The Creative Commons website states:

Creative Commons licenses should not be applied to works in the public domain. Our licenses are intended for works protected by copyright only.

Why I use Creative Commons

I currently have 410 images available for other people to use.

I take a lot of documentary-style photographs and I’m not very emotionally attached to them. Last year I decided to make these photographs available under a Creative Commons license because I’m a big fan of internet sharing, the concept of ‘free’ and enabling other people’s creativity. I’ve benefited from using other people’s images on my blog and I wanted to return the favour. It’s a gift. It’s also a strategic way to get more people to visit my Flickr account, which could lead to more people seeing my art.

No 85 - black paint
Kirsty Hall, No. 85, Jan 2011

I use the least restrictive license for my Creative Commons collection:

“This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.”

So someone could take one of my images and use it as the basis of an artwork or add it to a video, a blog post or a Powerpoint lecture. They could change the colour, flip it around, add it to a collage, even use it as the basis of a commercial work (although all my images are only 72dpi, so it wouldn’t be great for printing). The only thing they have to do is credit me.

I chose the least restrictive license because I wanted my images to appear in awesome WordPress plugins like Photo Dropper.

Further resources

If you have other questions, read the Creative Commons FAQ or check out the Creative Commons entry on Wikipedia (which incidentally, also uses a Creative Commons license).

Disclaimer:
I am not an expert in this stuff. If you have serious copyright questions about protecting your creative work, please consult a lawyer.

Get more help
If you’d like more information about building your online presence, check out the free resources section.

I am also available for online consulting if you need one-on-one help.


Resolutions suck

I don’t do resolutions. I think they suck.

If resolutions work for you, that’s cool. But it is my deeply held belief that January is long and depressing enough without making yourself feel like a failure halfway through because you thought you ‘ought’ to do something about your weight/finances/fitness/work-life balance or whatever damn thing you’re feeling guilty about.

Goals are good when they’re clear, measurable and achievable. Resolutions, on the other hand, smack of wishful thinking. A resolution is a cop-out. Oh, you ‘resolve’ to do something. Not actually a decision though, is it. Resolution is a kinda-sorta-wanna word. And most people choose resolutions that are destined to fail because they are murky and unclear and the person hasn’t fully committed to them. Or doesn’t even want to do them. Resolutions are invariably ‘shoulds’ writ large.

work-todo-list-july-6
Creative Commons License photo credit: purpleslog

What I do instead are commitments, goals and a Word Of The Year.

So, for example, 365 Jars is a commitment, not a resolution. There’s no resolution involved. I’ve decided that I’m doing it and I know that I will get to the end of 2011 with that art project completed unless I break a leg or something (and I have a contingency plan for that). No excuses. No giving up in February because I’m bored. I’m committed, so I will see it through. That’s how I am with art projects. Which is why I think long and hard before I start them.

Goal Setting

If resolutions give you an icky, ‘don’t wanna’ feeling, please come and join me in the ‘no resolutions’ corner – we have whisky, cough sweets, leftover chocolates and we don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m not even doing any 2011 goals right now because a) I’m knackered from the flu and b) I already have some important goals in play.

However, if you do want to set yourself some goals, here are some helpful tips:

Shoulds are deadly
‘Shoulds’ are killer words: they will eat you alive whilst making nom-nom noises. If the word ‘should’ appears when you’re thinking about goals, you need to chase it out of your brain with much screaming and a chainsaw.

If you don’t give a shit about that last 10lbs, don’t pretend you do. You’re not fooling anyone. Wishful thinking and half-heartedness won’t get you anywhere. If you think that you ‘should’ lose that 10lbs because some magazine says you need to or because all your workmates are dieting, you’ll fail. Because you don’t care enough to do it.

There is a very simple reason that I don’t have an MA – I can’t be arsed to go and get one. Until I have a burning, overwhelming desire to go back to college, I’ll be sticking with my BA. Sure, I’d quite like to HAVE an MA but not enough to do the actual ‘getting one’ part. The moment I realised that an MA was in my ‘should’ category, I gleefully struck it off my list and felt much lighter.

Be creative
For the love of all that is holy, chose something fun or find a way to make it fun. You’ll do much better. Reward yourself with stickers, find a creative way to achieve that aim or do something you love. If you hate going to the gym but love playing with kids, borrow some kids a couple of times a week (ask first!) and take them to the park for a run around. You’ll get exercise and their parents will be pathetically grateful. Or volunteer to coach football at your local school. Or lead a Brownie or Scout troupe.

Most people fail at resolutions and goals because they punish themselves with them. Why? Do you want to change a habit or do you just want to wear a hairshirt? Choose.

Be clear on your WHY
Goals that start with a ‘why’ are always stronger than wishy-washy, direction-less goals.

OK, so you want more time in the studio. Why? What does it get you? What happens if you do lose that ten pounds? How is your life better? What difference does it make?

I started 365 Jars because I wanted to take a daily walk every day during 2011. That was it. That was my ‘why’. I also wanted to get back to a daily art practice and I like doing year-long projects because they have a defined start and end. So that was two good strong ‘whys’ that I realised could be yoked together to make a fun project.

The art is a cheat code. I knew I wouldn’t walk daily if I made a resolution to do so but I sure as hell would if walking was part of an art project. So I came up with the art idea that would accommodate the walking. At this point, my wife looked at me funny and said, ‘you really will do anything if it’s for art, won’t you’. To which the answer was ‘yes, but only when I set the rules.’

Tackle one area at once
When I’ve been trying to change big things, I’ve always been more successful when I’ve stuck to one area at a time. Trying to lose weight, sort out your finances, get fit, learn French and start a daily art practice all in a single month might be doable but hitting yourself with a stick would probably be more fun. Changing habits can be hard. And if you’re trying to change habits in big, scary emotional areas like body image or finances, you can trigger all sorts of defensive mechanisms. Start small and achievable. Or trick yourself like I did with 365 Jars.

Make it measurable
‘I want to get fit’ is a completely pointless goal because you can’t measure it, so you will never achieve it. ‘I will do five minutes of stretching every morning during 2011’ is a far better goal because you’ll know exactly when you’re doing it and when you’re not.

Accept failure
If you do those daily stretches for 300 days out of 365, you’ve won. It’s not a zero-sum game, you haven’t ‘failed’ until you quit completely. 300 days of stretching will still make a big difference to your life. Sure, it’s a bit annoying about the other 65 days but hey, you’re still way ahead of the people who did it religiously for 2 weeks and then gave up. Shit happens: give yourself credit for the things you did, not what you didn’t. If you don’t manage to do your thing one day, pick it up the next day or the day after. If the way you’re doing it stops working, find a new way to do it. But don’t use ‘I missed a day’ as an excuse to quit.

Beware of romanticism
In my head, I can belly-dance. In my head I am also a willowy redhead who plays the harp and floats around in long wispy dresses. One day I may get round to learning belly dancing but frankly, I am shit out of luck with the willowy thing because I am small, dark and very curvy. Sure, I could grow my hair long, dye it red and lose weight but with the best will in the world, I can’t gain five inches in height unless I wear very unsuitable shoes.

And although I would like to be that pre-Raphaelite heroine, in truth, I am not that person. I look kind of drippy with long hair; I would have paint and mud on my long, billowing sleeves in five minutes and I would constantly trip over the wispy hemlines and then swear in a most unromantic fashion. Besides I have very little musical aptitude and no time or patience to learn. It is a pretty fantasy that bears no relation to who I truly am and I wouldn’t enjoy the reality. Now, if my fantasy was to be a bumbling, slightly grubby, female hobbit, I’d be totally sorted.

I once had an amusing conversation with a knitting friend where we admitted to each other that we sometimes knit things we knew wouldn’t suit our body shape just because we fell in love with the model and the way the project had been photographed. That’s romantic thinking. So is ‘I will feel happy in a bikini if I can just lose that 10lbs’.

Accept your reality.

There is nothing mystical about January
Set goals whenever it’s right to set them. I use monthly aims to keep myself on track and make sure important deadlines don’t get forgotten. If I get to March and I decide that 2011 needs its own special goals, I’ll set some then. The goal police won’t come round and arrest me because I didn’t decide on my goals on January 1st.

Commit
If you can’t commit to it fully, don’t even bother: you’re just setting yourself up to fail. Think this stuff through before you decide to do it. Be utterly clear what’s involved and why you want to do it. Make sure it’s achievable. And then decide. And then do it. Yoda was right…



Things to remember

If setting goals right now is a genuinely helpful thing for you, then do it and enjoy. I hope you make positive goals that help you grow and the tips should help you set strong, achievable ones.

But you also have my full permission to take a big deep breath, resolve not to set any resolutions or goals whatsoever, say ‘oh thank god’ and feel instantly better. Here, have a chocolate…


Introducing 365 Jars

Despite still being down with what appears to be Swine Flu, I managed to get out of the house today to start a new year-long art project.

Jar 1 close up
Kirsty Hall: Jar No. 1, decaying roses, Jan 2011

365 Jars is a daily walking project. Every day during 2011, I will be taking a walk to release an art jar into the wild. People will be able to collect the jars and register that they’ve found them on the website, it will be interesting to see if anyone does. For those of you who don’t live in Bristol (or anywhere I happen to visit during 2011), you can follow along on the project website.



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